Row brews as French chefs cry foul over foodie site
French restaurant owners are urging their government to ban 'meal-sharing' websites - where gourmets book dinners cooked by amateur chefs at home - in the latest clash between tradespeople and new online services.
The system is gaining popularity among tourists who see it as a way to meet locals and enjoy an authentic experience at a French home, rather than dining at restaurants listed in guidebooks, where many foreigners complain of surly waiters and slow service.
However, restaurateurs view the websites as a threat to their businesses, in the same way as French hoteliers have challenged Airbnb, and taxi drivers have protested against Uber.
Restaurant owners' concerns have been heightened by the success of Airbnb, which puts visitors in touch with locals who rent out parts of their homes.
Didier Chenet, head of the restaurateurs' union, Synhorcat, is meeting the French trade minister, Martine Pinville, today to urge her to clamp down on what he says amount to "illegal restaurants".
Mr Chenet said 3,000 French households had signed up as hosts on meal-sharing sites that offer home-cooked dinners in hundreds of cities around the world. "You could say that's not so worrying," he said. "But if you look at Airbnb, in 2012 they had 7,000 homes in France, now they have 50,000."
Mr Chenet fears that 20,000 French homes could be offering the service within five years.
He said it was a commercial service because hosts made a profit.
"They don't respect any rules in terms of hygiene, food health, licences to serve alcohol, the origin of products, allergies," he said.
The founder of VizEat, a site that covers more than 50 countries, said there was no intention to compete with restaurants. "Our hosts are amateurs who have guests occasionally, on average once a month in cities," she said.
One American tourist who used a meal-sharing website in Paris, said: "It was a one-off, and every other night we've been at restaurants."